When 3D printing first appeared on the scene it was said by many scientists and economists that the process would spur a resurgence in ‘cottage industry’ entrepreneurship.

While that prophecy has for the most part proven to be true, 3D printing has also been used by the ‘big boys’ to improve their operations.

Take NASA for example. Popular Mechanics (PM) writes that the nation’s space agency has used a 3D printer to successfully produce a combustion chamber for a rocket engine. The printed product has also been tested and has passed the trials triumphantly.


The product was the result of a joint-project involving three NASA research locations: the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio; Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia; and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The actual was designed in 2015 out of copper but lacked the strength to survive the enormous stresses of space travel. Now the members of the joint-project have designed a nickel-alloy ‘jacket’ printed out by the 3D machine that covers the chamber and gives it the resiliency it needs.


PM writes, “While copper is good for conductivity, as far as metals go it’s not all that strong. So NASA has covered the part in a nickel-alloy jacket that provides a sturdy structure to withstand the stress from pressure.

It’s taken a couple of years to get to this point, but the 3D-printing manufacturing can now eliminate hands-on engineering processes like brazing metal joints. As a result, the jacket can be made in hours as opposed to days or weeks.”

The finished product was added to the rocket and tests were run. Running the engine at 100 percent power for 25 seconds the rocket passed with flying colors.


“Testing the chamber in flight-like conditions helps us continue to prove these revolutionary technologies,” Chris Protz, engineering and design lead for the propulsion project, said in a press release. “We are proud of the way the chamber performed during this test and the capabilities here at Marshall that allow us to continue paving the way for advancements in additive manufacturing.”

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